Explanation of Stoll Evidence in California Sex Crime Cases

February 1, 2023

Stoll evidence, also known as prior bad acts evidence, is evidence of prior criminal conduct that is introduced in a criminal trial to show the defendant’s propensity to commit the crime in question. This type of evidence is used to establish that the defendant has a history of committing similar crimes, and therefore, is more likely to have committed the crime in question.

In California, the use of Stoll evidence is governed by the Evidence Code section 1101, which states that evidence of a person’s character or a trait of their character is not admissible to prove that they acted in conformity with that character or trait on a particular occasion. However, there are several exceptions to this rule, including the use of Stoll evidence.

One of the main exceptions to the rule is that Stoll evidence is admissible to show the defendant’s intent, identity, or plan. For example, if the defendant is on trial for a burglary charge, Stoll evidence of prior burglaries committed by the defendant may be used to show that the defendant had the intent to commit burglaries.

Another exception is that Stoll evidence is admissible to show a common plan or scheme. For example, if the defendant is on trial for a series of related crimes, Stoll evidence of prior crimes committed by the defendant may be used to show that the defendant had a common plan or scheme to commit those crimes.

However, it is important to note that the use of Stoll evidence is not without limits. The prosecution must first make a motion to the court to introduce the Stoll evidence, and the court must then conduct a hearing to determine whether the evidence is admissible. The court must consider factors such as the relevance of the evidence, the probative value of the evidence, and the potential prejudice against the defendant.

The relevance of the evidence is determined by the relationship between the prior bad act and the crime in question. For example, if the defendant is on trial for a burglary charge and the prosecution wants to introduce evidence of a prior theft committed by the defendant, the court may find that the evidence is not relevant because the prior bad act is not similar enough to the crime in question.

The probative value of the evidence is determined by the extent to which the evidence tends to prove that the defendant committed the crime in question. For example, if the prosecution wants to introduce evidence of a prior burglary committed by the defendant to show that the defendant had the intent to commit burglaries, the court may find that the evidence has a high probative value because it is directly related to the intent of the crime.

The potential prejudice against the defendant is determined by the extent to which the evidence may unduly influence the jury. For example, if the prosecution wants to introduce evidence of a prior murder committed by the defendant, the court may find that the evidence has a high potential for prejudice because it may unduly influence the jury to find the defendant guilty of the current crime.

In California, the courts have also established a balancing test to determine the admissibility of Stoll evidence, called the People v. Falsetta test. This test requires the court to consider the probative value of the evidence against its potential to cause undue prejudice to the defendant. The court must weigh these factors against each other and determine whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs the potential for prejudice.

It is also important to note that even if Stoll evidence is admissible, the court may still limit the amount of evidence that can be presented or the manner in which it is presented to prevent undue prejudice to the defendant.

If you’ve been charged with a sex crime, then contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to schedule a consultation with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney.

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